Thursday, February 24, 2005

Court upholds juvenile civil commitment provision

The Court unanimously upheld CA’s juvenile civil commitment provision (see background in yesterday’s post). Although the statute does not expressly require a finding that the person’s mental disorder causes serious difficulty in controlling behavior, the Court held that the statute should be interpreted as containing such a requirement in order to preserve its constitutionality.

The Court refused to define “mental disorder” either expressly or by reference to definitions found in CA’s Sexually Violent Predator Act and analogous civil commitment schemes. When (if) the legislature decides to define “mental disorder,” due process simply requires proof that the disorder causes the person to have “serious difficulty” controlling dangerous behavior.

Since the jury was not instructed on this requirement, the Court remanded. However, despite extensive testimony at trial from psychologists and corrections officers, the Court noted that “there was little evidence [that] defendant’s mental abnormality caused him serious difficulty controlling his dangerous behavior.”

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